After months of mounting evidence -- from actor comments to leaked set photos -- Marvel Studios confirmed Saturday during Disney's D23 Expo that Thanos will indeed be aided in Avengers: Infinity War by the Black Order, also known in the comics as the Cull Obsidian.
Referred to as the "Children of Thanos" at the unveiling of their statues on the exhibition floor, the team of cosmic villains in the epic sequel will consist of Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Ebony Maw and Black Dwarf (renamed Cull Obsidian in the film). But who are the Black Order?
In the context of Marvel Comics history, the Black Order is a new entity, having been introduced in 2013 by Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opena and Jim Cheung in New Avengers. The title focused on the Illuminati -- a group then comprising Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Namor, Black Bolt and Mr. Fantastic -- who possessed the Infinity Stones (or Gems, if you prefer) and faced intergalactic threats, losing their moral compass along the way. Their arc culminated in the Infinity crossover (and, eventually, Secret Wars), in which celestial forces converge in a war with heroes across the universe.
Among those forces is Thanos, who comes to Earth in search of the Infinity Stones, and his long-lost son, with a cabal -- The Black Order/Cull Obsidian -- that includes five deadly elite warriors. Wreaking havoc across the globe, each Black Order member faces off against a member of the Illuminati:
The first member of the Black Order, and the Mad Titan's right-hand man, the cruel Corvus Glaive sold his soul to Thanos and betrayed his people in pursuit of glory. A master strategist with superhuman strength and speed, he wields an otherworldly blade capable of cutting through atoms. As long as the weapon is in his possession, Corvus cannot die.
Described as "a predator in every sense of the word," Proxima Midnight possesses great strength, agility and fighting ability. She also wields a spear that, when thrown, transforms into three lethal black light tracers that never miss their target.
The Ebony Maw
Powerful enough to take on Doctor Strange, and even turn him into a double-agent, Ebony Maw is described as having "a black tongue that spreads mischief and evil wherever he goes." Considered the most dangerous of the Black Order, Ebony Maw is a master deceiver and manipulator who can infect the minds of his foes, revealing their secrets and forcing them to do his bidding.
Black Dwarf (aka Cull Obsidian)
Described as a "celestial nihilist," Black Dwarf can be compared to the Hulk on a physical level, due to his superhuman strength, density and durability. When Thanos targeted Earth, Black Dwarf led an unsuccessful attack on Wakanda that resulted in his expulsion from the Black Order. Wakanda's inclusion in Infinity War had led fans to speculate this behemoth might be among the Mad Titan's minions.
Apparently not part of Thanos' Infinity War crew, the mentally unstable Supergiant is referred to as a telepathic parasite and "omnipath" -- an incredibly powerful psychic that has the ability to possess and devour souls, in particular, intelligent ones. She has the power to control, steal and devour minds she deems worthy of corruption.
After the defeat of the original Black Order in Infinity, a second team was formed by Thanos in an Unworthy Thor storyline in which the Mad Titan is approached by a mysterious hooded figure who offers support in obtaining the Mjolnir of Earth-1610. Joining forces with the then-unknown being, Thanos forms a new Black Order with Proxima Midnight and Black Swan of Earth-1365. The two are later killed by the hooded figure -- who's revealed to be the Thor: Ragnarok villainess Hela -- upon their unsuccessful attempt to take Mjolnir, and their battle with Thor and Beta Ray Bill.
Outside of the source material, the Black Order has appeared in two video games, Marvel: Avengers Alliance and Marvel: Future Fight. They also made a splash on both the Avengers Assemble and Guardians of the Galaxy animated series. On Avengers Assemble, the team frees Thanos from prison in the episode "New Frontiers" and later joins him in battle in "Avengers World." On Guardians of the Galaxy, the team reappears in the episode "Undercover Angle" in which it pursues Ronan the Accuser's Universal Weapon, and inevitably loses a battle with Titus, who sells the weapon to the Collector; it's later revealed the Black Order has been arrested by the Nova Corps. They additionally show up to fight the Guardians in the episodes "Stuck in the Metal with You," "Lyin' Eyes" and "Free Bird."
Throughout their appearances, the Black Order proves to be a formidable threat for the Avengers, Illuminati and Guardians of the Galaxy. More than simple "henchmen," the team has a skillset equal to that of each major Marvel hero, making them incredibly dangerous and important in Thanos' attempts at conquest and possession of the Infinity Stones.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Infinity War boasts a sprawling ensemble cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Benedict Wong, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Holland and Anthony Mackie. The film arrives in theaters May 4, 2018, with the untitled sequel opening May 3, 2019.